The Commonwealth of Virginia is set to join the growing number of states to legalize sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May 2018.
The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation (SB 384) in March 2020 to allow statewide mobile sports betting, plus a limited number of physical sportsbooks at five yet-to-be-built casinos. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck the U.S. and closed state legislatures, Gov. Ralph Northam did not immediately sign the bill but requested amendments. Eventually, Virginia lawmakers reconvened to iron out the amendments and send them back to Northam for approval.
Access to legal sportsbooks will not be immediate, however, as we’ve seen in other states. In this page we’ll cover what’s next, what sports bettors can expect in Virginia, and identify the best sites to place your wagers.
Virginia sports betting timetable
Legalization is exciting, but Virginians will have to be a little patient as the state evaluates how soon it can get things up and running properly. Optimistically, bettors could place wagers on live sports in late 2020, but the process could drag out like we’ve seen in Tennessee.
The Virginia Lottery Commission still has plenty of work to do before sports betting goes live. Virginia doesn’t have casinos (yet) and the Virginia Lottery Commission has no experience in regulating non-lottery games.
In the meantime, Virginia residents will have to venture to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, or Washington, D.C., (once sports betting is live in the nation’s capital) for legal sports betting action, which they’ll have to do anyway when they want to bet on in-state colleges.
The good news?
As the regulatory body, the Virginia Lottery can issue anywhere from four to 12 permits at a time, which could create a robust and competitive online marketplace for bettors, in addition to online sports wagering platforms connected to five future Virginia casinos. The bill also allows the VA Lottery to hand out a permit to professional sports teams headquartered in the state (more on that later).
Online & mobile sportsbooks in Virginia
With as many as 12 mobile permits at a time to be issued — not including licenses for casinos and pro teams — major sports betting brands see a golden opportunity to enter the Virginia mobile betting scene. However, as things stand, the price to play won’t be cheap, as there’s a six-figure application fee (more on this) for a three-year license, plus a 15% tax on gross sports betting revenue. Following the three-year period, online sportsbooks will pay the Virginia Lottery should they wish to renew their license.
It’s tough to predict exactly who will apply for and obtain a license in VA, but we’re willing to make a few wagers based on what we’ve seen across the country, taking into consideration the large size and potential of the Virginia market.
DraftKings Sportsbook has quickly transitioned from DFS to sports betting, and it’s not doing so lightly. It has introduced innovative sports betting contests in New Jersey, and a large DFS player base has helped DraftKings gain market share in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Indiana, and Iowa. Recently merging with Diamond Eagle Acquisition Corp. and SBTech in a three-way deal, DraftKings became a public company on the NASDAQ in April 2020 in continuing its quest to conquer the U.S. sports betting industry.
FanDuel is DraftKings’ biggest competitor when it comes to DFS, and their battles continue as sports betting expands. Already situated in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Indiana, FanDuel Sportsbook is sure to have its eyes set on Virginia.
We also expect these players, among others, to emerge in Virginia:
Land-based books and casinos
Casino legislation has been a topic of conversation among VA representatives for the better part of two years, and this bill finally brings things to fruition. Cities are already looking to capitalize on the new law which allows certain ones to open brick-and-mortar casinos, once they get approval from their residents by way of a November 2020 referendum.
- The Pamunkey Tribe has a deal in place with Norfolk to build a casino and is interested in another one in Richmond;
- Hampton city leaders want to be included in all state legislation moving forward;
- Portsmouth has partnered with Rush Street Gaming to open an entertainment area near Tidewater College.
The tax rate will most likely be set at 15%, depending on the revenue created by the casino. The tax rate is particularly important for cities such as Norfolk and Portsmouth that have raised concerns that they could struggle with higher taxes.
Considering Portsmouth’s partnership with Rush Street, it’s safe to say Virginians will have access to the company’s BetRivers sportsbook sooner or later, similar to those in physical casinos in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, along with mobile sites where permissible.
Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder is a potential newcomer to the sports betting industry. The Redskins are currently headquartered in Ashburn, Va., but play their games at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. With the Redskins’ lease ending in 2027 and the stadium deteriorating, Snyder has shopped the DMV area — Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia — in hopes of finagling a new stadium with the lure of sports betting inside to attract fans (because Redskins football certainly isn’t doing it).
State lawmakers hope the provision allowing pro teams and sports venues access to mobile sports wagering licenses will entice Snyder to build in Virginia. Did we mention that said casinos and sports teams will be able to launch their mobile platforms before their retail locations are built? Enticing indeed.
Laws and regulations
As stated earlier, the Virginia Lottery will be the regulator leading the state’s effort developing guidelines for sportsbooks in coming months. With maximizing Virginia’s tax revenue as the priority, the Lottery Director will decide how many licenses to give and to whom.
The Virginia Lottery is slated to have sports betting guidelines in place by the middle of September 2020, which gives us the potential for an early 2021 rollout if things go smoothly. Of course, social distancing measures may have something to say about that. Here’s what we know now:
Fees and taxes
Though the initial bill that passed had a flat $250,000 fee, one of the governor’s amendments erased that requirement in favor of a $50,000 fee per “principal” in each organization. Principals include only those who have at least 5% stake in an organization. The amended bill passed.
“Official league data”
Virginia will also be the fourth state to controversially require the use of “official league data,” joining Michigan, Illinois, and Tennessee. This means that all licensed sportsbooks have to obtain data feeds from a sports league’s governing body in order to grade and settle in-play wagers.
Take your UVA Final Four bets elsewhere…
Unfortunately, betting on Virginia-based college teams will not be allowed, nor will any prop bets on college athletics. Some other states including New Jersey have imposed similar restrictions with respect to wagering on in-state teams.
What’s going on in the neighborhood?
D.C. law, with the D.C. office of Lottery and Gaming as its regulatory body, allows for mobile sports betting with the Lottery and at professional sports arenas. Unfortunately, all forms of sports betting are still waiting to launch and the D.C. Lottery will allow only one sports betting app to reach the market. Its own.
In partnership with William Hill, Capital One Arena — which hosts the Wizards and Capitals — is set to open the District’s first retail sportsbook. The sports licensing application fee in D.C. is $250,000, with a $250,000 renewal fee. According to some reports, the Redskins are much more focused on working out a deal in either Maryland or Virginia than returning to D.C.
The state of Maryland’s General Assembly is moving ahead with a referendum bill that would allow for mobile sports betting and retail locations at casinos, racetracks, and professional sports venues, all regulated by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control. Maryland is already home to MGM National Harbor, Caesars Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, and Maryland Live! in Arundel Mills. If the referendum is passed it would potentially allow the Redskins or any other professional sports franchise building a stadium or facility in Prince George’s county to offer sports wagering. The cost of a license would be a hefty $2.5 million with a tax rate of 20%.
Sports betting has been live at West Virginia casinos since 2018, and WV mobile betting followed in 2019. Now online casino gambling is on its way to the Mountaineer State. As far as sports betting is concerned, once Virginia mobile betting launches, West Virginia could lose customers who have been crossing the state line for action. However, some Virginia bettors may still make the occasional road trip in order to bet on their beloved alma maters.
FAQ about Virginia sports betting
Is sports betting live in the state of Virginia?
It’s coming, but not quite yet. The Virginia Lottery will proceed to draft regulations while preparing the state’s betting infrastructure..
Who can place a real-money sports bet in Virginia?
Once sports betting is live in Virginia, anyone over 21 and is within state limits will be eligible to make a wager.
Will there be mobile sports betting in Virginia?
Yes, there will be mobile sports betting along with a select number of physical, retail locations.
How many online sportsbooks will be available in Virginia?
There will be anywhere from 4-12 online sportsbooks, plus mobile platforms for five future Virginia casinos as well as pro sports teams with headquarters in Virginia.
Will mobile sportsbooks offer bonuses for new players?
Yes, mobile sportsbooks will offer bonuses for new players. Check back here for the top bonuses once they become available.
How will I deposit online?
We should see similar payment methods offered in other states such as, ACH (eChecks), Visa/Mastercard, PayPal and pre-paid cards (see below).
Do I need to be a state resident in Virginia to bet on sports?
No. You just need to be over 21 and in the state.
What bet types and betting markets will be available?
The only thing set in stone is the exclusion of college props and bets on local schools. Other than that, bettors should expect to have access to bets that are commonly available in other states.
Can I bet on local professional and college teams?
You will be able to bet on local professional teams but not on local college teams within the state of Virginia. You will not be able to live-bet (in-game wager) on college sports under any circumstances.
When sports betting goes live, convenient and safe deposit/withdrawal options will be available, which is a sigh of relief for anyone who may have been using offshore sportsbooks operating illegally in the U.S. These methods include:
- PayPal – Connect your PayPal account in order to make instantaneous deposits.
- ACH/eCheck – Load funds directly from your connected bank account.
- Site-specific prepaid debit cards – Sportsbooks will likely offer branded pre-paid cards that double as ATM cards.
- Online banking – Log into your banking account through the portal.
- Skrill – another e-wallet like PayPal
- Visa/Mastercard – acceptance rates for credit/debit card transactions are slowly on the rise, but still low
- Cash at the casino cages – once constructed
- Paper check
Virginia sports betting journey
Virginia has always been for lovers, but it will soon be for gamblers.
Along with sports betting, Virginia will allow up to five casinos to be built, which is historic considering casinos — both commercial and tribal — have been absent throughout Virginia’s history. The arrival of casinos will come more than 30 years after Virginia voters brought the lottery to the Old Dominion in 1987.
Though casino gambling and sports betting will be new, Virginians are no strangers to betting on horse races.
Of course, the sports betting part would not have been possible without the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn PASPA in May 2018.
Virginia lawmakers were quick to react to the landmark decision, introducing the first bill to legalize and regulate sports betting as soon as November 2018. What followed was a back-and-forth between lawmakers and Gov. Northam, which they eventually sorted out. The Virginia Lottery is poised to begin drafting additional regulations and plans to set things in motion. With minimal hiccups, mobile betting could be live by the end of 2020.